All-night cinema: SportsAngle wishes you the sublimest of Samhains

 Come on, like you don't spend your free time making images like these
Though sports is definitely what this site does best, Halloween is the official holiday of SportsAngle.com. There’s simply something to be said for a day in which it’s completely acceptable to more closely represent who you are visually, even if it’s sort of macabre – or in my case, completely and totally macabre.

As a special Halloween present, SportsAngle presents its top 10 favorite horror movies as of right now. This list could very easily be very different by this time next year, but why not live in the now? All of these films come highly endorsed, and I’m presenting it a day early so you can hit up your local Best Buy and load up for the holiday.

10. Shaun of the Dead

It took me a long time to get around to watching this film, as I’m not generally a fan of horror parodies, nor am I generally crazy about British comedy. I should have known better. If you’ve ever laughed maniacally while watching a horror movie, you realize that nervous energy is a big contributor to the fun we experience while watching. And besides, Shaun of the Dead is hilarious. Simon Pegg plays a slacker with so much precision that he’s too lazy and oblivious to realize that zombies had overrun London. But his hero turn is inspiring, and this isn’t really a parody after all – it’s a legit zombie movie that happens to be extremely funny.

Key moment: The two protagonists arguing as the zombie… very slowly… approaches…

9. Grindhouse

Though the two films here have been split up and sold as separate movies, the way they’re meant to be seen is the way they were in theatrical release – one after the other, with a bunch of fake trailers in between. When I saw this in the theater – word to Clifton Commons – I had a tremendous time watching two exploitation-type movies the way they were presented in the ‘70’s, complete with mock trailers for other grindhouse films in the middle. (One, Machete with Danny Trejo, is going to actually be made and is a must-see) If you must watch the home versions, watch Robert Rodriguez’s zombie flick Planet Terror first, then watch the fake trailers on YouTube, then pop in the better movie, Quentin Tarantino’s wonderful Death Proof, complete with a bunch of badass stuntwomen and Kurt Russell.

Key moment: When Stuntman Mike has Rose McGowan riding shotgun

8. The Birds/Psycho

Lumping these together because of the Hitchcock factor. Alfred made movies at least on par with these, but none more iconic in a horror sense. Perfect examples of how the masters of suspense didn’t need buckets of fake blood and computer-generated nonsense to spook people out. Watch The Birds and then see if you’ll ever feel the same way when a flock flies over you, or when a bunch of pigeons swarm on a crust of bread. Everyone knows the twist of Psycho, and yet it’s still amazingly creepy to this day. Watch Janet Leigh’s shower scene and see if it doesn’t give you chills.

Sidebar: I met Tippy Hedren, star of The Birds, back in the spring at the Chiller Theatre expo. Very classy woman who champions a great cause, definitely worth a look.

Key moment: Shower scene. Has to be.


7. Silence of the Lambs/Red Dragon

Again, I’m endorsing two of these. Silence of the Lambs was a brilliant achievement by Anthony Hopkins, who humanized a serial killer with his eloquence and demeanor, while still remaining brutal and nearly inhuman in both words and actions. Not a straight-up horror film, more a psychological thriller, but highly worth watching for both Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter and the Buffalo Bill character, among the most bizarre in film.

Skip Hannibal, but go find Red Dragon, the prequel. I saw it several times in the theater; Hopkins was again on top of his game, but so was Ralph Fiennes as the serial killer du jour. There were times when you could see human emotions poking out as he began a relationship with a blind woman, but his dark tendencies took over. Not as good as Silence of the Lambs, but if you liked that and haven’t seen Red Dragon, it’s worth a look.

Key moment: When blood drips down from the top of the elevator in Silence of the Lambs

6. Halloween 3: Season of the Witch

Blasphemy! Nobody likes this movie but me. But I feel as if people snubbing it is a particularly blatant example of film snobbery. Yes, this is the only one in the series that doesn’t have Michael Myers. Yes, the original Halloween is obviously a better film. But you’ve seen that one and probably haven’t seen this one. If this had been released without the Halloween franchise attached to it, history may have looked more kindly on it for what it was, a pretty interesting idea. Some evil corporation mass-markets masks that violently kill the wearer when watching a specially designed Halloween special. The reason this hits home is that we all remember things of this nature growing up, must-have 3-D glasses or whatnot sold in every 7-11 in America. I saw this maybe in middle school and it spooked the hell out of me. Let’s hope Al Queda never sees Halloween 3 lest they come up with some real-life way to simulate this! Halloween 3: highly underrated.

Key moment: The test screening where a kid watches the movie wearing a pumpkin mask

5. Carrie

A very good book, and also a great movie that plays on a major theme of high school: alienation. Carrie was branded as an outcast, but they picked with the wrong girl – you simply have to check for telekinesis before you start to bully someone. After making her feel accepted and cruelly yanking that away, Carrie’s classmates – including a super-young John Travolta – elicited very little sympathy. Special highlights: Carrie’s wacked-out Jesus freak mom (not too far-fetched if you’ve ever driven through Virginia), a very creepy soundtrack, the iconic prom scene and an ending that still makes me jump.

Key moment: The shower scene – highly disturbing

4. Nightmare on Elm Street

I used to champion the third one of these, the Dream Warriors. Although that movie is still awesome – the Wizard Master is one of the coolest characters in any horror movie – it’s a bit bulky and unwieldy and definitely runs a little long.

The first Nightmare on Elm Street was a surreal piece of genius from Wes Craven where you – like the characters in the movie – don’t really know what’s real. There comes a time in the movie when you’re no longer able to determine what’s a dream sequence and what isn’t. Freddy Krueger was a superb character before he became a wisecracking pseudo-comic (though he remains passable throughout the series) and you get to see a young Johnny Depp, pre-21 Jump Street, ply his trade. Nightmare plays on people’s fear that when they go to sleep, they may never actually wake up: groundbreaking and terrifying.

Key moment: The Freddy-esque hall monitor

3. Evil Dead 2

The first Evil Dead is more a straight-up horror flick than this one, which isn’t really a sequel, more of a re-imagining. But much like with Shaun of the Dead, Evil Dead 2 is hilarious! Bruce Campbell is one of the hidden treasures of cinema, with the greatest facial expressions in film. His comedic timing is unmatched, and he carries this low-budget gem; he has to, he’s the only actor in it for about 95% of the movie. Sam Raimi cut his teeth on this before graduating to the Spider-Man series (watch for Bruce’s cameo in each one of those movies), and though I love those films, Evil Dead is a brilliant reminder of how a sense of humor can go a long way.

Key moment: Campbell dancing with the lamp – trust me

2. House of 1000 Corpses/The Devil’s Rejects

I’m lumping these together despite them being two very different movies. Rob Zombie’s horror movies have become cult classics; they feature the same characters, but in name only. Corpses is a straight-up horror film, an homage to Texas Chainsaw-esque slasher vehicles. You can’t take the mindless brutality that seriously – it’s meant to be cartoonish, and is. What makes the movie for me is three of the most vivid and colorful figures in horror: Otis, Baby and Captain Spaulding. Baby may be the best, a beautiful seductress with a haunting laugh who also happens to be a deranged murderer. A nice touch is that the two clueless dudes who go out in search of Dr. Satan are former MTV Singled Out host Chris Hardwick and that guy who plays Dwight Schrute on The Office.

The Devil’s Rejects, for its part, features some of the same brutal violence as the first. But it humanizes the killers by blending the horrible acts they perpetrate with moments in which you see the three main characters acting as a family unit. The movie itself is more like Natural Born Killers than a straight-up horror movie, and really is a far better movie, all things considered. The two films together are an impressive achievement as the first two films in Zombie’s growing catalogue.

Key moment: The unveiling of Fishboy in Corpses

 

1. Dead Ringers

Definitely an unorthodox choice. But David Cronenberg’s tale of twin gynecologists will haunt you for days after you see it. Jeremy Irons plays the twins, who form a yin and yang – one is well-adjusted, the other a social misfit. The trick is figuring out which is which as the movie continues on. They date the same women and generally fill in the gaps for each other in life, but when one of them goes mad and invents some bizarre and horrible gynecological tools (think sharp edges), things go downhill. Cronenberg is more well-known for other movies, such as the Fly – and more recently, A History of Violence – but I’ve always thought Dead Ringers to be a chilling, compelling film. And Irons’ performance alone is worth seeing the movie. I found it on Amazon after having seen it about a dozen years prior; pick it up, you will not regret the decision.

*****

And with that, I bid you all the happiest and safest of Halloweens. When in doubt, coming home from a long night of debauchery to a good scary flick or two and some blood-red wine is a nice way to unwind and enjoy the greatest day of the year.

And remember, when you hear something go bump in the night… it’s probably just me.

Esoteric

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.